EU citizens will face checks for NHS treatment after a no-deal Brexit

GettyBoris Johnson
  • EU citizens in the UK will reportedly have to produce documentation to prove their right to access free healthcare under the NHS after a no-deal Brexit.
  • The Department of Health indicated that hospital trusts should be prepared to introduce checks on EU citizens “immediately after exit day.”
  • A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the checks for EU citizens living in the UK would not be more stringent than ones currently in place.
  • The document also outlines government plans to charge EU citizens visiting the UK or moving to the UK for NHS use after a no-deal Brexit.

EU citizens living in the UK will be forced to prove their right to free healthcare under the NHS after a no-deal Brexit, according to a report, which also outlined the government’s plans to charge EU citizens visiting or moving to the UK in the event of no deal.

In a document provided to the NHS, the Department of Health indicated that hospital trusts should be prepared to carry out checks on EU citizens – who are currently eligible for free treatment – “immediately after exit day,” the Times reported.

The report led to concerns that many EU citizens living in the UK would not easily be able to prove their right to free care.

But a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the checks would not be more stringent than ones currently in place, and indicated that a simple proof of address to establish residency would be sufficient.

“We can completely reassure EU citizens currently living in the UK before or on 31 October that they will still be able to access free healthcare on the NHS after we leave the EU on 31 October, whatever the circumstances.

“How they prove their eligibility for NHS treatment will not change, regardless of whether they have applied to the EU settlement scheme,” the spokesperson said.

The UK is currently scheduled to leave the EU on October 31, and Boris Johnson has pledged to deliver Brexit with or without a deal, despite warnings from campaign groups that a no-deal outcome would leave EU citizens without proper legal status and struggling to access basic services.

The government earlier this year passed legislation which allowed ministers to strike reciprocal deals with other EU countries that would allow citizens to be treated free of charge.

But few agreements have been reached because agreements need to be struck between individual members states.

That means, according to official government guidance, that EU citizens will not be eligible for free healthcare if they move to or visit the UK.

EU citizens currently living in the UK are eligible for free healthcare.

In advice to NHS trusts, it says that “operational practices” to ensure that “charging regulations” are enforced will need to be in place immediately after Brexit, meaning that they will need to implement eligibility checks for EU citizens.

The document says: “The changes to the charging regulations will come into force immediately after exit day if there is a no-deal Brexit. You should make sure that any changes to your operational practices are implemented from that point forward. You should work closely with your organisation’s senior responsible officer for Brexit preparation and their teams, to make sure that you are operationally ready to implement the new charging regulations after exit day.”

The Department for Health emphasised that checks for EU citizens living in the UK who wish to access the NHS would only be simple ones.

Maike Bohn, co-founder of the3million, a group which campaigns for the rights of EU citizens, said in a statement: “Such a move is discriminatory and outrageous.”

“The new guidance is creating a hostile environment for millions of EU nationals who have the right to free healthcare in the UK but won’t be able to prove it. This outrageous decision spells chaos as the two groups of EU citizens will be indistinguishable to the NHS and we are running the risk of people being denied vital treatment they are fully entitled to.”

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